Illinois Department of Natural Resources


Urban and Community Forestry/Regional Urban and Community Forestry CouncilsForestry Long Range Plan - Urban Forestry Sections

The following information is taken from the Long Range Plan titled, "Realizing the Forest's Full Potential: Assessment and Long-Range Action Plan for Forest Resources in Illinois" developed by the Illinois Forestry Development Council.

Background - The Forest Resource and the People of Illinois History
In 1820, 13.8 million acres of forest existed in the state. More than 300,000 people settled the prairies during the decade of the 1830's. Today over 90% of Illinois' population lives in urban areas. Over 242, 000 acres of urban forest exist in Illinois.

Urban areas are not well recognized for the opportunities they could provide in green space, wildlife habitat, recreation, and other benefits. Here green spaces do not compete with agricultural uses but rather must be protected from development. Urban and community forests provide aesthetic and recreational benefits to residents and are often the only contact people have with their living heritage. In addition, trees help to save energy and reduce fossil fuel consumption, thus reducing the greenhouse effect.

In urban areas the biggest threat to contiguous natural areas is urban sprawl. Between 1970 and 1980, approximately 867 quarter-sections in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area were urbanized (population exceeded 1,000 per square mile). This urbanization trend continues across the state and is spreading to rural areas located within several hours of incorporated city limits. Forested tracts are often selected as prime development sites for this kind of urban sprawl. Planning is imperative to ensure that these areas meet the needs of citizens and provide adequate-quality forest resources. Urban forests are often the only contact many people have with the natural environment.

The Urban and Community Forest
Trees, which make our communities comfortable, are major assets in America's cities and towns. Just as streets and sidewalks, sewers, public buildings, and recreational facilities are a part of a community's infrastructure, so are publically owned trees. Trees, collectively the urban forest, are important assets that require care and maintenance the same as any other public property. Our urban forests play a decisive role in the health of our communities and the quality of life for Illinois' citizens. More than 80 percent of Illinoisans live in urban areas and, for many, the urban forest is their only exposure to a natural environment. Without open space and trees, life in urban areas lacks the natural quality people inherently desire.

The diverse Illinois urban forest resources include street trees, parks, forest preserves, arboreta gardens, and trees on private property. These valuable resources, owned by counties, municipalities, park districts and the private sector, are all managed differently. Urban forests benefits reach beyond those normally associated with rural forests and contribute greatly to a community's quality of life. Benefits include energy conservation, climate modification, noise absorption, water-runoff reduction, property enhancement, tax-base stabilization, and psychological preferences. ...

It is estimated that the state's 6.5 million municipal street trees have a value of more than $3 billion. Given that street trees represent only 10 percent of Illinois' urban tree population, the actual value of Illinois' urban forest could be estimated at $30 billion. In spite of the benefits and enormous value of these trees, many communities lack the human fiscal resources to maintain them adequately. Urban trees live in a harsh environment, and without adequate maintenance they can deteriorate in to public hazards.

Some communities have completed tree inventories as a step toward managing their trees, but many others have not. Communities that have not assessed their urban forests' needs are not provided adequate care and are compounding future maintenance costs. Neglect results in an overall decline of a community's urban forest and ensures a reduction in future forest vigor, size, and value to the community. Currently urban forests form the basis of a $300 million tree-care industry in Illinois. While more are needed, than 3,000 people are employed by approximately 500 tree care businesses.

The economic impact of forest-related maintenance in the utility industry is often overlooked. According to a 1998 Illinois Forest Development Council survey, $27 million was spent in 1987 by Illinois utilities on forestry-related items: 95,000 miles of utility right-of-way were maintained; 612,000 trees were pruned and 118,000 removed. Urban and community forestry programs can work cooperatively with utilities to reduce utility costs and enhance uninterrupted service through public education (right tree, right place), community stewardship, and tree maintenance.

Protection and management of the urban and rural forest are important. Without adequate protection, many of our forests will succumb to development. Without management, forested areas decline, especially the stressed forests of populated urban areas.

The state's urban and community forestry program provides guidance and assistance to citizen groups and communities in managing their urban resources. The Tree City USA program, the Urban and Community Forestry Grant program, and technical assistance provided by Division of Forest Resources field staff all address this issue. In 1997, 145 Illinois communities participated in Tree City USA program. Tree City USA helps build the critical foundation needed to sustain local forestry management programs. The Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program provides matching funds to units of local government and has had great success in encouraging local participation. These program are invigorating Illinois Urban Forest Resources, and at the same time making our neighborhoods a safer place to live.

These programs address need by:

  • Educating and assisting communities, local units of government, and community groups in comprehensive urban forestry management programs.
  • Ensuring that ongoing tree maintenance is implemented, along with tree-planting programs.
  • Providing a vehicle for starting urban and community forestry programs.
  • Addressing, in a limited way, the shortage of financial resources, information, and trained personnel needed to manage Illinois' urban forestry appropriately.

Urban forestry programs not only enhance communities and the quality of life but also reduce long-term costs in utility line/tree conflict, flood and storm mitigation, and energy consumption. Investment in a high-quality urban forestry program is returned many times over through the benefits these programs provide.

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Urban and Community Forestry Needs
Illinois legislature has enacted the Urban and Community Forestry Act but has not appropriated funding. If funded, the program would encourage local participation by providing matching grants. Communities should be informed about the advantage of comprehensive urban forestry programs and assisted in realizing those advantages. Today's communities need to plant and replace more trees and implement ongoing maintenance programs. Educational efforts in this area must be greatly expanded.

At present there is a shortage of information, financial and technical resources, and trained personnel to help manage urban forests. Many long-term problems, such as inadequate open space and water-resource degradation, are caused by short-term approaches. To compensate, communities and regional planners need to understand how to use forestry information and natural resources inventories to plan and integrate forestry considerations into other community programs.

Urban and community forestry programs not only help enhance communities and the quality of life but also reduce long-term costs in utility line-tree conflict, flood and storm mitigation, (insect and disease issues) and energy consumption. The investment in high-quality urban and community forestry programs is returned many times over in the benefits these programs provide to the communities.

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Division of Forest Resources
The mission of the Division of Forest Resources is to protect, perpetuate, restore, conserve, and manage the forest and related resources of Illinois, both public and private, rural and urban; and to ensure for future generations the greatest economic, scientific, and social benefits that can only be provided through a forest ecological system. The urban forestry program is one of four major program areas in within the Division.
Urban Forestry Assistance is provided through the District Foresters who work directly with communities by providing the following field services:

Information on establishing an urban forestry program

Establishing goals and objectives

Inventory and analysis of existing trees

The preparation of an Urban Forestry Management Plan that details: goals and objectives of the program; analysis of the inventory; proper care and maintenance of the forest resources; site selection and species recommendations for tree planting; and a schedule for Plan implementation

Workshops on proper tree planting and tree care

Programs and incentives administered by the Springfield office include: Tree City USA a program recognizing outstanding forestry programs; Regional Urban Forestry Councils setting policy priorities and taking action locally to network urban forestry resources and promote urban forestry issues and programs; Urban and Community Forestry Assistance Program providing grants on a 50% cost share basis for creating, enhancing and developing urban forestry programs, the Prairie Tree Companion Newsletter distributing valuable urban forestry information and promoting local initiatives, Arbor Day poster contest encouraging people to plant trees on Arbor Day in conjunction with the artistic expression.

Several documents and partnerships influence the development of the Urban and Community Forestry Program. Externally, the USDA Forest Service provides fiscal incentives and guidelines for program development. Within Illinois influences include: local units of governments, professional organizations such as Illinois Arborist Association and the Society of American Foresters, Regional Councils, and The Forestry Development Council's Urban Needs Task Group. As mentioned above Departmental and Divisional missions, fiscal opportunities, and personnel also area given consideration in the development of a program.

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USDA Forest Service
Urban forestry legislation in America dates to the 17th century when, William Penn, proprietor of Pennsylvania, required that for each four acres of land cleared, one acre should remain forested. Federal legislation included communities and urban areas within the managerial jurisdiction of the Forest Service in 1972. The Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 allowed the Forest Service to make finds directly available to State Foresters and communities. The 1990 Farm Bill further focused assistance to the states to develop urban and community forestry programs. (Urban and Community Forestry Program Achievements in 1995 - Vital Communities Through Healthy Ecosystems, USDA Forest Service, 1995).

During the first decade, the Forest Service provided only $3 million nationwide for the program. Illinois share was approximately $35,000. During this time, Illinois was able to establish the state's first urban forestry coordinators position. Since 1991, the USDA Forest Service has been a major partner in state urban and community forestry programs. Funding for urban forestry programs increased ten fold. Currently, Illinois has received from $300,000 to $600,000 to fund its statewide urban forestry program.

This fiscal enhancement has brought with it increased accountability. There are currently four program requirements for receiving federal urban and community forestry funding. They are: 1) Hire a full-time urban forestry coordinator/administrator; 2) either hire or have the capacity to provide volunteer outreach throughout the state of Illinois; 3) develop an urban forestry council; and 4) develop and implement a five year plan of action.

The fiscal responsibility is to provide a 50/50 match of the funds on legitimate urban forestry activities. Legitimate activities are those that help the state meet the Performance Measures Assessment Standards (PMAS) as established by the USDA Forest Service. The PMAS reporting system currently assesses: Community assists; Number of Tree City USA communities; Number of communities conducting projects with state assistance; Number of communities that have an ordinance or tree board; Number of communities with a basic assessment of their forest resource; Number of communities with a tree inventory or management plan; Number of Communities that are sustaining; Number of grants to communities; and the Number of workshop, seminars, conferences and teleconferences held. There is increasing pressures from within the federal government to assure that the urban forestry dollars are being directed toward these accomplishment. There is also increased pressure to document accomplishments at the state level. These pressures translate into a greater need for accountability of those programmatic accomplishments credited to the urban forestry program. The Forest Service needs all of the states to document movement up the PMAS ladder thus showing a communities initial involvement in urban forestry to their ultimate goal of being a sustained community. With a state the size and populace of Illinois, this can be considered an enormous task. It will require the development of a uniform data base and constant attention to the status of communities within each field District.

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Forestry Development Council - Long Range Plan
Below are the urban and community forestry goals and actions as identified by the Urban Needs Task Group in-conjunction with the Council on Forestry Development. These goals are shared by many organizations including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Division of Forest Resources Urban Program.

GOAL: Promote high-quality urban and community forestry management that will result in economic benefits and in attractive, healthful, and rewarding environments from urban forests for the people of Illinois.

Objective 1 - To encourage and enhance cooperation, networking, and partnerships between and within public and private agencies and organizations


Encourage and support Urban and Community Forestry programs at the federal, state, and local levels

Develop and establish a program to provide stable funding for urban and community forestry programs.

Develop an information and education program to improve: (a) public knowledge and awareness, (b) agency coordination for urban and community forestry management.

Develop a recognition program for urban partners

Encourage more interaction and cooperation between governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to identify common issues, develop strategies, and strengthen commitments to urban and community forestry

Encourage and assist in the development of additional groups of diverse interests to discuss and achieve compromise and a balance of resource issues.

Objective 2 - Promote high-quality urban and community forestry practices and management through technical assistance, education, technology transfer, and research.

Promote training and development to expand the capabilities of urban and community forestry practitioners, related disciplines, and volunteer organizations.

Promote training and development to expand the capabilities of urban and community forestry practitioners, related disciplines, and volunteer organizations.

Maintain current and secure additional state and federal assistance for urban and community forestry programs and projects.

Support research for the improvement of urban and community forestry.

Increase urban and community forestry staff within the CES in urban areas.

Encourage units of government to implement acceptable tree-care practices and utilize professional urban foresters and arborist in their local tree maintenance, urban planning and development programs.

Expand current technical assistance to units of government by increasing Division of Forest Resources staff to include a minimum of 8 additional urban forestry field professional employees, plus support staff.

Facilitate ecosystem-level management initiatives that increase linkages with programs associated with wood-waste reduction and recycling, timber supply, watershed management, management in the urban-wildland interface, and so forth.

Vision Statements: In March of 1999, the Council on Forestry Development sponsored a task force called "A The Council on Forestry Development along with the Society of American Foresters conducted a visioning session called "Common Vision for Illinois Forests". This task force identified the following urban forestry-related vision statements to address Illinois' forests.

... provide a range of goods, services, experiences and values the at contribute to community well being, economic stability, social and personal satisfaction, and recreational enjoyment.

... be protected from land use changes and development impacts that diminish ecological processes, wildlife habitat, aesthetic values, forest product industries, and rural community values

... provide benefits that sustain the quality of life for people who live and work in rural and urban communities

.... maintain long-term ecosystem integrity through the application of scientifically sound resource management practices

... increase through reforestation and restoration where ecologically, economically, and culturally appropriate in order to meet the needs (clean water and air, recreational opportunities, plant an animal diversity, forest products, etc. ) of an expanding human population

... be acknowledged as vital by all people, who appreciate the important role forests play in the State's economy and the forest's positive impact on their quality of life.

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